I hate the term “PR secrets”. It only PR for PR companies trying to sell their expensive consulting to the poor startup CEOs. Brian Solis has many valid points about PR in this post “PR Secrets for Startups” and he knows what he is talking about, nothing personal I really like Brian (update Brian takes my post in a good way great). But in fact, I disagree with most of the way Brian talks about PR in this post. PR is no secret science and it is not complicated. Or it was in the past, it is not anymore. No targets or “marketing pitch” will get you very far anymore.
Get a community and focus on your friends is the way to go.
Not a secret #1
who cares about stories, you can get traction and users if you have a good product
There aren’t only bloggers and journalists looking for stories, there are also users with passion about a product that can just spread the love as the power equation between journalists-bloggers on the one side and happy users spreading the word with blogs, twitter etc on the other side has completely changed. In fact, I think startup CEOs should care more about the community members than the journalists and professional bloggers. If the product gets traction, it will get coverage anyway.
Not a secret #2
Do not pick a PR person, be the spokesperson of the company
The best person to represent the company is not a PR person and even less an external one. It is YOU. You, the founder, you the CEO. Look at Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, they are the PR machines. Does Michael Arrington himself need a PR person to represent himself get TechCrunch known? If you launch your startup, you need to be the one representing it because you have the vision and the passion. If you are shy, get over it. Get training. Try a daily video for example
Not a secret #3
Participation is NOT marketing
The most important asset that a startup CEO has or should build is his community. It has nothing to do with marketing. I took me 8 years since I started blogging in 2003 to have a community and it is no marketing. It is about sharing every day thoughts, tips, advise, learnings with the community. It is about a continuous dialog with thousands of friends that will gladly help you building the company if you do not consider it as marketing. Of course, you can talk about your products and it may be good marketing at times but it should not be artificial. Marketing fails in communities.
Not a secret #4
There are no “targets” either, we’re just people, not an audience!
If you think about targets, you will miss most of the opportunities ahead of you. The time of the BCG matrix is over with the long tail. Just throw yourself and your product in the conversation and you will see who shows up, who is interested or not in what you are doing. For example, I had no idea Seesmic would have so much buzz in the deaf community who uses it as a communication tool (gestures work great in video). They would have never been my target.
Not a secret #5
Who cares about the launch day and date. If the product, the idea of the news is interesting and gets traction amongst your community, it will get coverage. I had great coverage on saturdays or sundays (but most PR firms would tell you it would be a catastrophy to do anything on a week-end). In fact, you do not know what other news will be competing with you anyway, regardless of the day, so just post it, when it is fresh.
Not a secret #6
Do not see bloggers and journalists as target either, they will ignore you
Make sure that the PR team DOES NOT RESEARCH individual preferences for contact before they reach out, they will tell you what everybody knows about them and you will contact them in the most boring way possible. Take bloggers. Everybody tries to pitch Scoble and Arrington. They are tired of the same formatted boring pitches that come to them exactly the same. They are my friends and if I had tried to pitch them like hell they would have never have. Relationships with journalists and bloggers are the same as real life. They take years. Approaching them artificially with a strong sales pitch is the best way to make sure these relationships will never happen.
Not a secret #7
Do not measure success and trafic from PR
It’s like if you tried to measure your relationships with your friends! Build strong links with your community, learn from them everyday, enhance your product. If you get coverage from the smallest blogger go and comment to thank him. Do not be obsessed by numbers and results, it is long term relationships that matter.
I could go on and on. Forget a little focusing about PR and stop looking at journalists and bloggers as “targets” and “how good your marketing pitch is”. For me it is the best way you will fail getting coverage. Get a community first, then listen to it all day long. Having said all the above, I am sure Brian and myself agree, it is just a question of how we present it. What do you think?
I launched a conversation on Seesmic and a conversation on Friendfeed too.